For the past year, David Letterman has had a comedy bit on his show called Campaign 2000. An overproduced logo flashes, important music comes up and Dave turns to the producer in the wings, Maria Pope, and asks, "Got anything?''
She usually reports she has not heard from the Bush camp, or that contact has been made but no word yet. (Bush will appear later this month.) Then Dave turns to Paul Shaffer, the bandleader. "Got anything, Paul?" "Nothing. Sorry, Dave,'' he says.
This media fanfare leading to nothing seems a fitting metaphor for the Bush/Gore political season, which is shaping up to be a dead heat, but with no thrilling choices or burning issues. Most voters feel lukewarm and were waiting for the first debate to see the candidates disprove their perceived weaknesses. (This column was written before the second one.)
In the first debate, Gore was a smarty-pants on the issues. He repeated himself like a power-mad student council president who would not leave the podium. Bush was spooked and hollow on the issues—like a kid who's relieved the teacher never asked for his homework.
Contemporaries, sons of famous politicians, dressed alike in red, white and blue, each man reduced himself to a childish caricature, either doing the nyah-nyah or proudly announcing he wasn't. The idea that the choice is between a rock and a hollow place is so much a part of the zeitgeist that it even surfaced in, of all places, a Snickers commercial.
The candy bar has long been promoted with the tagline, "Not going anywhere for a while?'' to suggest the wisdom in grabbing a Snickers while one waits.
The spots are all funny, but my personal fave involved a man getting an eye exam. The optometrist listens carefully as the patient attempts to read from the chart: "E, L, Cow.'' "No cow,'' the doctor says. Meanwhile, there's a waiting room full of guys dressed like the patient. They are all visually impaired referees.
This new Snickers spot, which will run through the first week of November, opens on a Nick Cage-type guy entering a voting booth. ("Vote. Feel proud'' a banner over a table proclaims.) He's young, and this is perhaps his first presidential election. Once inside the curtain, something odd happens.
A little animated donkey hops on his left shoulder and an animated elephant jumps on the right. These are not large beasts but the old-fashioned, anthropomorphized depictions of the Democratic and GOP party symbols—more interesting than seeing the candidates themselves.
The elephant says, "My dad was president.'' The donkey says, "Big deal. My dad was a senator.'' And they go on in this childlike way. "I can wear my dad's pants!'' on the right. "I invented pants!'' on the left. And underneath this broad political humor lies extreme truth.
The animation is light and skillful. Perhaps the timing and voices are so good because they are purely accidental. Casting was held up due to the strike, and out of frustration, Charlie Miesmer and Wil Boudreau, co-writers, went into the booth themselves and riffed. It works.
I think they might even have something for Dave. Mars/Snickers
BBDO New York
Chief Creative Officer
Sr. Executive CD